Saturday, September 12, 2009

Devotional - Love, Faith and Grace

Good morning everyone. I am experiencing a little vertigo this morning. Probably due to lack of sleep over the last week. I have to chase my keyboard around my desk so this may take a little longer than normal. But at least it is Saturday so we can take a little longer to enjoy the morning. We are pressing on with Galatians 2.

Paul was nothing if not bold. Here we find him confronting Peter over a struggle Peter was having. Peter was the apostle who defended the ministry to the Gentiles. He had the vision from God concerning the acceptance of this ministry. He spoke in favor of it. During his time in Antioch he enjoyed rich fellowship with the Gentile believers. Yet there was inconsistency with Peter. When some of the circumcision group showed up Peter drew away from the Gentiles.

This group of "believers" who advocated the strict Jewish observation of the law for all believers were obviously a powerful group. Peter was afraid of them. This was the group that Paul had a constant battle with because they represented the opposite of the gospel that Paul taught. Now here the famous Peter was compromising what God had instructed him to do because of his fear of man. Paul could not stand by. He stood up to Peter and confronted him with the truth of the gospel. (And we think things are political in our age.)

I don't think any of us should feel smug about where we stand in any of this because I think the leaders of the Church compromised long ago. We are just so deep in it that we think we stand in the truth. Yet, if we stand in the truth why is there so much dead wood in the Church? Paul reminded Peter:

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. vs. 15-16

This is such a large issue, living by faith and not sight, but I want us to consider a simple thing. Do we love Jesus? If we love him then we trust him. If we trust him then we will trust what he said, the promises that he made. Yet the churches are filled with people who have no dynamic faith because their love is only a surface love. Tested in the waters of life this faith quickly disappears. Some will find solutions by other means and then still claim that it was by faith. The thing is, to follow Jesus we have to let go of the rope. We have to be willing to lose our understanding of things and step into the reality of God. We have to be willing to die to how things work in this world and be willing to live by God's system:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! vs. 20-21

How do I know most people don't live this life? I know because most of them do not have a clue about grace. Two signs of people experiencing the depth of the Father's love is faith and grace. I know most people do not understand grace because they are eaten alive by guilt from their past. If we understood grace then we would be as bold as Paul in defending it. Grace is the Father covering everything that we can do nothing about. We cannot save ourselves so God showed us his grace in providing Jesus as the way to salvation. We cannot forgive our own past so God covers us by his grace, healing us if we trust him. We cannot live his righteousness, so he covers us by his grace by declaring us to be righteous. We are a broken people but he shows his grace by revealing his glory in our weakness. Peter knew all of this and more, yet he chose to fear man and not God. Can you understand why Paul had to confront him?

We do not live by a system of rules; we live by faith because of Jesus' love for us. We do not conform to the will of man but we submit ourselves to the will of the Father in response to his love for us. We walk in forgiveness and acceptance regardless of what anyone may bring against us. We have been made whole by the will of the Father because of his love for us. We live in boldness and power even when the enemy accuses us of our past because we know the person we were was crucified with Jesus and no longer exists. We are who we are because of God's grace and not because of anything that we merited.

Oh my friends, I have no greater desire for you than what Paul had for his friends:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-18)

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